It’s as natural to me as breathing. I instinctively look for solutions. Not sure why. But it’s how I’m wired. My whole life has been about helping others find solutions to moral, spiritual and relational problems. And I confess, I really get annoyed when others don’t look for a solution to a problem.
Last week, I received a text while officiating at a funeral. Our local rental car agency was informing me that two reserved vans through corporate weren’t made available to them for transporting our 15 team members heading to Haiti early the next morning. In my mind, no big deal. There should be an easy solution. When I finished the funeral, I contacted the rental company. The reserved vans were not available as promised. They were apologetic. Had I caved, that would have been the end of it. No vans available. Period. But leaders are solution-seekers. As Sam Chand says, “Every leader got into a leadership role because they were a solution or provided a solution to something or someone.”
Without a doubt, I knew I could find away to get 15 Haiti team members from Cape Coral to Fort Lauderdale airport the next morning. I called our regional airport location of the company because the local agency said they have a much larger inventory and just might have the needed vehicles. The airport agent couldn’t find any vans anywhere in the area. He told me that he had no solution and then suggested I call their competitors to find two passenger vans.
Seeking a solution, I called the corporate office because we are corporate members with a direct-pay account. They quickly apologized and focused on the problem: the two reserved vans are not available. My response: “I understand what you are saying, but let’s get on the solution side of things.” I interrupted more excuse-making and asked the agent a simple question. “Will you help me get 15 people and all their supplies from point A to point B?” I politely told the corporate agent, “I would like to see you as a rock star by the end of this conversation. You will make you and your company super heroes. I just need your help to figure out a solution to get a combination of vehicles together to move our team and their luggage from the church parking lot, 150 miles across the state of Florida, to the passenger check-in area of the Fort Lauderdale airport. If you can do that, we will continue to use your company as our preferred provider. If not, we’ll have to seek out other solutions and other partners to provide our transportation needs. Is that something you are willing to do?” Finally, for the first time, I heard, “Yes, I will try.”
With that simple three-letter word, Y-E-S, she realized she had permission to find a solution. We went to work. We ended up reserving 5 large SUV’s to transfer a team of people and hundreds of pounds of supplies to their destination. As a consummate solution-seeker, I had my wife calling another local van rental company while I was on the phone making these vehicle reservation changes. As soon as I hung up with the rock star corporate rental agent, I called one of the mission team leaders because I wasn’t fully satisfied with the solution. Two heads are almost always better than one. He suggested using his pickup truck to transport the 30+ suitcases filled with supplies and then we could rent two SUV’s rather than five. Furthermore, instead of driving 25 miles to the regional airport during evening commute traffic to pick up the SUV’s, we decided to check back with our original local rental agency and see if they could now provide a solution by getting the two SUV’s directly from them. Bingo!
Here’s what I learned. Some people aren’t leaders. They only look at the obstacles. They make excuses. Leaders are solution-seekers. In fact, every leader’s trajectory is built on one thing. They provide solutions. In a business, a church, a non-profit, a government entity, solutions are needed above everything else. Whether it is increased sales, more revenues, better customer service, refined training, projects completed, products produced or additional employees—discovering solutions—is the key. It’s all about cultivating a positive-can-do attitude. Opening your eyes. Noticing. Looking. Vision. Creative out-of-the-box thinking. Listening. Collaboration. Leaders seek out solutions.
QUESTION: Is your tendency more toward solution-seeking or excuse-making? What is one thing you could work on today to grow your leadership by searching for solutions?